Stray: Review

Developer: BlueTwelve Studio
Publisher: Annapurna Interactive
Platform: Playstation, PC

While only being around now for a few years. The folks over at Annapurna have truly set themselves apart narrative wise with experiences like Edith Finch, the Invisible Swan and I Am Dead to name just a few of the publisher’s approaches to storytelling. That tradition continues with Stray, a futuristic cyberpunk world viewed from the eyes of a lonesome little cat. In this world, humanity is nothing more than a memory with I must say at first glance is probably the best-looking interpretation of a dystopian future I have seen in a long time.

We begin with you as a cat doing normal cat things like drinking, scratching and frolicking with your family in a place known only as The Wall, before tragedy strikes and you wind up in the depths of a desolate world. Playing as such a tiny and agile creature means you are able to explore things that even the most experienced assassin couldn’t do, even though cats land on their feet you won’t be able to jump wherever you please with button prompts helping you scoot onto all forms of obstacles.

The atmosphere of this futuristic world is one of lonesome and I absolutely love it, you start crawling around these abandoned residential areas, the flickering of neon lights and rattling of bottles the only thing accompanying you as you press the meow button to echo through the quiet. Oh yeah, Did I neglect to inform you that we have a button solely dedicated to meowing, that alone puts this title in esteemed company. The game does feature light puzzle solving, but unlike other games, there is no objective or beacons to speak of, Stray at least hopes you have some sense of problem-solving, like stopping a fan or getting inside a drum to roll it.

Soon enough you meet a robotic buddy and find your way into the depths of the slums that are filled with robots with old-school Macintosh’s for heads with your little friend affixed to you by a cat jacket offering translations and inventory, while at first glance this game would look like a walking simulator with you just trying to survive what you will actually be doing through your playthrough is essentially a whole bunch of fetch quests. With every area you arrive at, you will want to explore, talk to everybody and marvel at how these worlds operate, every area is teeming with life, which is ironic considering you are the only breathing thing here.

How the cat functions as a cat definitely earned some chuckles from me, sure there are normal things like climbing over objects, knocking shit over and clawing everything you can find. But how you interact with the robots around you is something as well, I was just walking up to one going for a stroll and I damn well tripped him over, but you can even rub up against them which earns a nice big heart emoji for your troubles.

Well we know where the headcrabs have gone

There is of course the elephant in the room and I will just come out and say it, the cat can die in this game, while platforming prevents any falling deaths you will be met with these squishy parasites known as Zurks that will latch on and overpower you or later on being attack by robotic security drones. Just a fair warning there will be a time where you will kill your cat and I can’t believe I had to just say that, your best bet is just run away and shake off any that manage to grab on, this proves incredibly nerve-racking when the game takes a page from Half Life 2’s book with an elevator taking its sweet time.

While there are certain issues like the cat not going in the direction you want to go and a few convenient set pieces, Stray has got to be one of the most unique and heartfelt narratives I’ve played in a long while. As a former cat owner there was something truly heart wrenching about playing this game and even if you’ve never owned a pet in your life, you would want to take our feline friend home with you.

Dedicated. Meow. Button!
Beautiful yet haunting & desolate world
Adorable interactions with robot civilization